From May 24th to June 5th, the UVU Ballroom Team participated in the annual Open British Championship in Blackpool, England.
The Open British Championship is analogous to the FIFA World Cup; it’s a crucial event for ballroom dancers all over the world. Every year hundreds of thousands of dancers travel to Blackpool to compete in several dance events.
“Anybody who’s anybody is there,” said Laura Payne, an adjunct advisor and director of the Bronze Team. Ballroom dance has a heritage that is centuries old in Blackpool, and just dressing up is half the point during the “wine and dine” festivities. It is an honor for any group to be invited.
The UVU Ballroom Tour Team comprised eight couples that competed in two different events: standard (waltz, tango, and “Fred Astaire-type dances” according to Payne) and Latin (salsa, samba, cha-cha, etc.). Each couple was required to dance for a full six minutes on the floor.
The dancers spent weeks in advance preparing, clocking in as many as twenty hours per week training for the events and practicing technique. To choreograph the standard routines, the department enlisted the help of Jonathan Wilkins and a partner, both of them U.S. champions in standard.
Emmy award-winning Paul Winkleman, who choreographed for the opening Olympic ceremonies in Beijing and Salt Lake City, choreographed the Latin routines.
A professional in Pleasant Grove primarily engineered the music, but for the most part students from any discipline in the School of Arts have many opportunities to assist, from helping with video and multimedia to designing costumes.
Besides groups from Idaho and China, UVU was one of the few collegially based groups to participate; most of the other groups comprised of professional dance studios who may practice for sixty hours a week – and get paid for it – from across the globe.
Against such fierce competition, the UVU teams in standard took 2nd place from the five teams competing in the entire championship, and the Latin teams took 4th from nine.
The UVU Ballroom team has consecutively taken top awards at Blackpool for the past few years.